We all know Ohio State's bread and butter is the power-O with a handoff to No. 28. But what happens if the Buckeyes find themselves in a 3rd-and-long situation, or behind by a couple of scores in the second half? They cannot continue to run the ball in those situations. Can they beat Penn State through the air?
Ohio State's receivers aren't very well-known. Something that you might expect when you have a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the nation's top recruits starting in your backfield. But, Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline provide a usually steady set of hands for Terrelle Pryor to throw to. I say usually because the two have been inconsistent catching the ball up until last weekend's game at Michigan State.
The two are experienced and quality possession receivers. Robiskie excels at catching the ball on the sideline, while Hartline has made a name across the middle sitting in the soft spots of a zone. But who stretches the field? The receiving corps in Columbus lacks that Ted Ginn-like speed to stretch a defense.
To provide a comparison between Ohio State's offense and Penn State's defense, I decided to use the Illinois game, in which the Lions defeated the Illini, 38-24. Juice Williams threw 24 times; we know Pryor wont be called upon to throw that many times unless the Buckeyes fall into a large deficit. Arrelious Benn had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, there is no freak of nature like Benn lining up wide for them.
But if they can run the ball well and make the safeties—including Penn State's best athlete in the secondary, Anthony Scirroto, who is coming off of a minor concussion—creep up to stop Beanie Wells, then there may be openings to throw the ball.
I think the only way that Pryor throws the ball more than 15 times is if the Buckeyes find themselves down by more than two scores. Otherwise, I would expect a heavy dose of Beanie Wells and Pryor running the ball. And when Tressel feels that he has the safeties looking toward the line of scrimmage, he will try to throw in a play-action pass and get Hartline or Robiskie one-on-one with a defensive back.
If Penn State gets up big early, it takes the best player from Ohio State out of the game, and I am sure OSU coach Jim Tressel will try to keep that from happening.